Twitter in the Classroom

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Christina Tsuei a teacher at Murdock-Portal Elementary.

Now, more than ever, technology allows us to stay connected to the world around us. Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users can post 140 character updates of what is going on in their lives.

In my multiage elementary classroom, my twitter account is primarily available for my classroom parents to get a live update of what is going on in their child’s classroom throughout the day. Too often, students go home and tell their parents they had a “good” day and they learned “nothing” that day. My twitter account gives parents a way to get the inside scoop of their daily educational experience.

Throughout the week, I give students the opportunity to come up with questions that relate to something they have learning in class so that parents can feel connected to their child’s learning experiences and they can ask their child meaningful questions. This provides opportunity to have an open dialogue between home and school. Parents also have the ability to tweet our class back.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 1.40.27 PM

Our twitter instructions are as follows:

  1. Take a Post It note
  2. Write your tweet
  3. Stick it on the display under the correct heading

Heading choices are:

  • “What did you learn today?”
  • “What did you enjoy doing today?”
  • “What did you find challenging today?”
  • “What did you do to be of service to others today?”

Our class twitter account also follows other teachers locally and around the world. My students were able to skype with a class in Palo Alto and dialogue about what they were learning and experiencing. The class has really enjoyed being connected to the world around them through Twitter!

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.21.24 AMYou do not need a twitter account to read the tweets. Instead just click on this link: and you’ll be able to see recent tweets. If you are a twitter user, feel free to follow @MsTsuei!

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.22.02 AM


Coding with Kindergarten

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Jenna Clarke a kindergarten teacher at Stocklmeir Elementary.

Why yes, you can have fun coding, even a kindergartener can code. Even I can teach kindergarteners to code, with help of course.  When I first heard about the “Hour of Code” I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.  After all, what is coding?  How does it work?  I asked our tech team for a volunteer to teach my class for the worldwide hour of code phenomenon that I had read about, and waited.  I was fortunate and Audrey Prouse – our Assistant Principal – offered to teach my class.  She came into our classroom and explained very well what coding was, it’s part of technology, and how it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One step, or one piece at a time.

In kindergarten, the first part of the technology piece is learning to use the mouse. We used the mouse to learn directions, left, right, up, and down. Then we used the mouse to navigate the internet browser to find the website  We were using technology to code by putting the puzzle pieces together and we were now part of the “hour of code” participants.

I was motivated to learn more, so when I received an email from a colleague about the hour of code seminar presented by Embark Labs, I signed up. I attended the seminar, dreamt of coding, and the next day took what I learned and presented it to my class. This is what coding beyond the hour of code looks like in a learner focused kindergarten classroom.

After presenting the 3×3 grid on our carpet, I explained the directions and the “one step at a time” concept.  After we defined the words position and orientation, I shared that the goal was to move the box to each X on the carpet to “light it up” with the least amount of steps. Students were called up to hold the box to determine if the directions called out were a change in position (moving forward out of the cell) or orientation (moving left or right within the cell.) The students were fully engaged and ready to code on their own.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.55.55 AM

We used the arrows as symbols when recording the codes on white boards

After the students were clear on the position and orientation concepts of coding they were assigned to groups to write out their own codes to “light up the X.” In small groups they were given a whiteboard, marker, and small dice to help with determining the movement on grids they drew on the whiteboard. Working together the students used the arrow symbols to record each step of the code. Once they had written down the code, they checked their work on the main grid on the carpet.

This was a great learning tool in the classroom to help the students really understand the basics of coding. They were having fun and fully engaged the entire time.

On our next visit to the computer lab, the students were ready to go beyond the hour of code and try some more advanced coding.  At we used our mouse to navigate to find the Lightbot application. Working together and independently the students moved the robot using the arrows that indicated right, left, move forward, and jump. When they had completed the steps they were able to self check to see if their robot was able to light up the cubes. When they completed the task successfully, they were really excited. “We are coding!”

Coding in Kindergarten, why yes, they can!  Watching my students go from learning how to use a mouse, start the computer, navigate google, finding the website, use the applications to code, and properly log out of the computer, was a wonderful experience.

Padlet and Thinglink

Check out this great example of combining Thinglink and Padlet to share student work!  Angie McCulloch is a sixth grade teacher at Cupertino Middle and had her students curate articles, pictures, videos, and information about Endangered Panthers.  Once students had enough information they worked in pairs to create their Thinglink.  Their final step is to embed their Thinglink onto a class Padlet wall.  Click the image below to see these great projects!

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.58.45 AM

Angie and her students also use Padlet with the stories they are reading in class.  Students are asked to post claims and examples/evidence of their opinion on the authors message.  This way students can see what their classmates are thinking and frame their class discussion based on various claims they read from the Padlet wall.

Talk about #eduawesome!

The Solution To Shared iPads and Google Drive?

Have you ever had a student forget to sign out of their Google Account?  It happens, and this maybe the solution to shared iPads in the classroom and using your GAFE accounts.

From either the Google Drive App, the New Google Doc App, or the New Google Spreadsheet App you can have multiple accounts logged in and create a four digit passcode for each account.

Let me paint the picture for you: Aria leaves the Google Drive App, and slowly walks iPad #16 over to the charging station with two hands.  Then Morgan goes to get iPad #16 – sharing is caring – and slowly walks back to her desk holding the iPad with two hands.  Sounds correct, right?  When Morgan opens the Google Drive App she can quickly switch to her account, type in her passcode and have access to all of her own stuff!

Step 1: Go to your Google Drive, Docs, or Sheets app and click on your account in the top left.  Don’t see it?  Click the three horizontal lines in the top left which will open up the sidebar.  Then you will see your account – again in the top left.

Step 2: Select the “Passcode Lock” (at the bottom)


Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.39.19 AM

Step 3: Turn “Passcode Lock – On”

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.43.45 AM

Step 4: Create a four digit passcode, and re-enter to confirm it

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.39.31 AM


Step 5: I recommend you set it to “Always Lock” which will require the passcode each time you return back to the Drive, Docs, or Sheets App

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.39.43 AM

Something we always want to think about is “what if the kiddo forgets his passcode?”  Not a problem – well okay it is – but something we can manage.  If the kiddo forgets his/her passcode, just remove the account and have them log back in with their username and password.

Happy sharing!

Reflections on CUE

At the 2014 CUE conference, CUSD’s own Valerie Cypert, Molly Hardy, and Greg Pitzer each presented about EdTech.  Click Here to check out our collaborative notes and other presentation resources we have found.  In addition to the collaborative notes we took we wanted to share some of our main take-aways.

Molly:  Jon Corippo gave an amazing presentation with “Uber Geeky” tricks on how to use Keynote.  Biggest mind blowing moment was when he showed us how to make a green screen in Keynote then move it over to iMovie.  Boom!  You can find his slides below by clicking the icon.  I also learned about View Pure which allows you to block ads before a YouTube video, and it won’t post the suggested videos at the end.  Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to get with those “suggested” videos.  Quiet Tube will block comments and ads in the beginning of a YouTube video, but it will keep the suggestions of other videos at the end.

Uber Geeky Keynote Slides

Stephanie: CUE14 brought me up to speed about STEM education. Specifically, I learned about the design process and that some well-known resources (Khan, PBSKids, KQED science, Lego WeDo, Logo, to name a few) already include STEM projects we can use right now. I left wanting to learn more about how to integrate Scratch programming (** into our math and science curricular offerings and am ready to work alongside teachers who are interested in doing so. It was also satisfying to hear multiple presenters discuss how the Math Practices and NGSS can be addressed when weaving technology into instruction to enhance the learning experience.

**Teacher should contact parents before creating any accounts for students under 13

Greg:  I found several nuggets in two categories at CUE – the systems level and individual tools level.  On the systems level, the highlights are evaluating LMS systems, new iPad management solutions from Apple, and iTunesU.  The individual tools I found of interest:,, Tackk.**

**Teacher should contact parents before creating any accounts for students under 13 and are great tools for students to create infographics.  What are infographics?  They are digital posters where students can show research and data about a particular concept.  It’s a great combination of information literacy, data analysis, and communication skills.  You can see the presenter’s website on how to structure an infographic project.  Tackk is a new publishing service which is a combination of website, poster, blog and works on either a laptop or iPad.  Publishing is easy with a variety of items you an insert from photos to videos.

As Amy references below, we are looking at a learning management system that will provide a safe environment for teachers and students to interact with each other.  There were several session looking at the pros and cons of different systems, how they interact with other schools systems such as SIS and report cards.  I think one of the major takeaways was how to ensure that the LMS we select can import data from our SIS and other resources and data tools can export data from the LMS as well.   Apple has released several new programs for managing iPads in the last month.  Now, students under 13 can get a protected Apple ID with their parent’s permission which is beneficial for moving towards a 1:1 environment.  When the student turns 13, the ID turns into a regular Apple ID.  We are trying this our currently with students at Lawson MS.  This ties into the next system which allows schools to purchase apps, distribute them to specific iPads and then pull them back and reuse them. In the past, once an app was used, you couldn’t reclaim it.  The last change is the way district iPads are tied to our management system.  With the new system, we can force our iPads to be enrolled with us and users will not be able to delete the profile – as is what happened in LA.  So look for some new ways to manage the iPads which should make it easier to get what you need on them and into students’ hands.

Amy:  High on my radar for CUSD at CUE14 was how to improve digital workflow between apps on the iPad and getting them seamlessly stored in a secure place for students, teachers, and parents to access.  With so many shared iPads across classrooms, getting student work saved is becoming quite a challenge!  I spent time looking at different Learning Management Systems (LMS) that could help accomplish this so we could come up with a coherent solution for our district.  No decisions have been made yet, but one is forthcoming!

I also spent time learning about other district rollouts of BYOD programs (Bring Your Own Device).  We might as well learn from their mistakes, right?  Definitely some interesting tidbits as we think about how to meet our board priority to have more students using technology in their individual and group learning everyday in an equitable and coherent way!

What seemed to be missing from this conference was attention to some of the data privacy issues that have been surfacing in light of recent criticisms of InBloom (or the Shared Learning Collaborative) and the Department of Education’s recent release of the Privacy Toolkit and Hotline to help protect student data and privacy.

Now for the fun stuff.  Have you ever heard of the term “round-tripping”?  Round-tripping is basically when you send files between two different applications to do what you can’t do in just one app.  It’s similar to “App Smashing,” but instead of being a linear workflow, it goes back and forth between two different applications.  I learned about this from Jon Corippo, edtechie extraordinaire.  I highly recommend checking out his website.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say you want to make an interactive movie with animations and text.  That’s pretty tough to do in iMovie – it’s easy to record and edit video on iMovie, but create animations with text?  That’s tough.  One of the easiest tools to make your own custom animations, however, is Keynote!  Start with what you want in Keynote: create your slides with text and animate whatever objects you desire.  Then export the Keynote as a Quicktime Movie and import it into iMovie.  Now you have a movie you can edit and you can also add audio tracks.  But you don’t have to stop there.  You can import the iMovie BACK into Keynote and turn it into an interactive presentation where you can select to play the movie based on which slide you jump to (think DVD main menu).  You can do so much with two apps that are now free!  These two apps can help middle school students build awesome projects!

One last nugget that I thought applies not only for students who have difficulty with vision but also for adults!  It’s the accessibility features that are available on both the iPad and on the Mac OS.  Apple has done a really nice job making accessibility features seamless to the user experience.  Do you ever have trouble finding your mouse?  Make your cursor size bigger!  Have trouble reading small text on your screen?  Use the Zoom feature and set a few shortcuts to zoom in easily!  Do you get frustrated when you try to use the keyboard shortcuts but can’t seem to hold down two keys at once?  Enable Sticky Keys!  If you’re struggling with using your technology, there is likely a solution that can help you.

90 Degrees and Sunny

We are here live in Palm Springs at the Annual Spring CUE Conference!  If you aren’t here with us, no worries follow along via Twitter with the #CUE14.


Greg is about to present Formative Assessments on Mobile Device where he will cover

Tomorrow I will be presenting on Create a Positive Digital Footprint with ePortfolios where I will cover

Stay tuned for our collaborative blog post with our main takeaways from this three day conference.  We will also provide you a link to our collaborative Google Doc notes.

News at YOUR Reading Level

NewsELA is a fantastic Common Core aligned website that houses news articles to help students build reading comprehension with nonfiction text.  The best part is that each article is written in five different Lexile levels so it can be accessible for all students.  Lexile levels range from 550 to over 1200, which could cover students in third to twelfth grade.  When you open an article, on the right side you can choose the Lexile level and begin to see the articles change as you move between levels.  First thing I want you to do is look at how awesome my image is below, then you can look at how the title changes.  The link of this iTunes article is at the very bottom of this post.

*This image was created with PicCollage check out our post about it by Clicking Here.

Photo Mar 13, 9 04 25 AM

Here is a lesson I did with fourth graders as their first experience with their Google Drive accounts.  I found an article on NewsELA about NASA Finding an Ancient Lake on Mars, and had them answer a few questions about the article.

There are huge benefits to having kids enroll with NewsELA as your students.  They can take quizzes, teachers can tracking progress, and even assign different articles.  Since I was a celebrity teacher – yes that is what I call myself – in this fourth grade classroom I didn’t want to have students create accounts and link it to me as their teacher.  My workaround was to provided the NewsELA article as a PDF and then link it to a View Only Google Doc.  I turned the View Only Google Doc into a tinyurl: and had students follow the directions.  Look at this great response

Lake on Mars

And my favorite of all…

Lake on Mars2

Some articles to consider